Better online

As I write this introduction to the Association’s new online version of EMDR Therapy Quarterly, we have emerged from a unique version of Christmas and entered a second nationwide lockdown. An electronically mediated connection and reconnection with friends and family is the latest adaptation that coronavirus has forced us to make. We have spent the past year learning to live more and more of our lives online; meeting friends, attending meetings, being interviewed by prospective employers, starting and ending relationships, not to mention stepping up quickly to develop online expertise in treating our clients. Lockdown precipitated widespread anxiety concerning the likely effects on mental health, but also within mental health services about their ability to address demand. Some of these fears were borne out by research. The British Journal of Psychiatry reported the results of a study in October which confirmed some of our fears about effects of lockdown on mental health; suicidal ideation increased and, as might be expected, those from the most socially disadvantaged backgrounds and with pre-existing mental health problems had the worst outcomes (O’Connor et al., 2020). The study, which looked at trends during the first six weeks of lockdown in the UK concluded that: “Whereas symptoms of anxiety, and levels of defeat and entrapment decreased across the three waves, depressive symptoms and loneliness remained stable but adversely affected”.

Among therapists, there was doubt about the efficacy of online therapy; a nagging worry that online would be a poor substitute for the ‘real thing’. Thanks to the rapidity with which individual therapists and mental health providers rose to the challenge, many of these fears were quickly dispelled. But isn’t helping ourselves and others to adapt to change the raison d’etre of therapy? Many have been surprised by how effective online therapy is and the ramifications of this realisation are beginning to change the way we think about therapy and engage with it. There are still gaping holes in accessibility to therapy, especially online, as recognised by the BJP study already referenced: “These [disadvantaged] groups need to be prioritised to ensure that they receive the support they require and accessible and remote clinical services tailored, as necessary, to meet this need”. In one of many initiatives to address this need, the use of the G-TEP-RISC protocol with an IAPT to adapt to increased demand posed by COVID-19 and reduce waiting times for treatment has been trialled in the northeast and preliminary findings reported in this edition of ETQ. With the EMDR UK community, a new Special Interest Group exploring the pros and cons of providing online brief therapy has been formed and the themes so far discussed are also reported on in this edition.

We have spent the past year learning to live more and more of our lives online

The profound changes to our ways of living and working have sparked speculation about whether we will ever ‘return’ to life before COVID-19. Richard Worthing Davies has grasped the opportunity to explore four trends he has identified and which he feels will change the face of therapy in the future. He hopes his article in this edition will stimulate a ‘proper debate about the future’ and I encourage you to have your say. We also hear from the Council of Scholars, the think tank envisioning the future of EMDR therapy and how to fill the gaps in research and training to ensure that EMDR therapy fulfils its potential worldwide.

I hope you will find much more to interest you, not least the excellent case study by Jenny Ward on the treatment of complicated grief with EMDR therapy. There are many more opportunities to share what you read and learn from these webpages and, as ever, you are wholeheartedly invited to get tapping on your keyboards to share your news and views and to document what you have learned from your work with your clients and wish to share. And please, tell us what you think about the new format of ETQ. We’d love to hear from you and publish your letters!

O’Connor, R., Wetherall, K., Cleare, S., McClelland, H., Melson, A., Niedzwiedz, C., . . . Robb, K. (2020). Mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: Longitudinal analyses of adults in the UK COVID-19 Mental Health & Wellbeing study. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 1-8. doi:10.1192/bjp.2020.212

Omar Sattaur edits EMDR Therapy Quarterly